Thursday, May 31, 2007

suspended animation

Is it possible to die of suspense? I wonder. Right now, I am waiting on news that will change the course of my fate. For the last few weeks, I've been in a state of agitation, my patience being stretched to its limit, my stress regulators doing what they can to keep me in check.

"Don't forget to breathe," BT keeps telling me. He's been one of my few sanity anchors recently.

I wish I could feel the same easy, relaxed sense of well being that I feel with him all the time, but the real world encroaches. Responsibilities, pressure, decisions, tedium, obligations. So much patience and resilience required. Why was I in such a hurry to grow up and be an adult?

And now, all I can do is try to show some grace under pressure. All I can do is wait. I'm poised at a very dangerous angle, at the precipice of elation or devastation. I shouldn't let it affect me so much, should keep my wits about it, etc. Go ahead, tell me not to care so much. It won't do any good. This is going to have a great impact on me one way or the other, and I can't pretend it won't. I was never any good at playing it cool.

Soon, soon...

Saturday, May 26, 2007


I stand in front of you
I take the force of the blow
-Massive Attack

Last night was different. Happier, giddier. Both of us have made progress with our personal situations, which made for a lighter, cheerier atmosphere.

When we stood to leave, the bartender, a Greek woman equal parts sassy and sweet, hugged me goodbye like an old friend.

"Take good care of her," she said to him.

"I always take care of her," he replied.

"He's a good guy," she told me.

I nodded. "I know."

I don't know what to call it, but I'm finally starting to understand that maybe it doesn't need a name. I can't explain it to my friends, who worry I'll get hurt because it's not a traditional relationship, more of a once-in-a-while thing. He's not my boyfriend and yet I've been seeing him longer than some of my exes. Every time I see him, it's with the understanding that it might be the last time. There has been a lot of passion, but conflict, too. I'm drawn to him in a way I haven't been drawn to anyone in a long time.

I pinned down what was bothering me about the situation last week. It's not that I need for us to be exclusive; I like having the option of seeing other people (though I equally dislike the thought of him doing so, because I'm jealous like that; oh well). It's not that I need to be labeled his girlfriend. Last night, he introduced me to everyone as his friend, but then openly kissed me and wrapped his arms around me. The label didn't matter, because I felt genuine warmth and affection from him.

No, what troubled me was the time in-between, the days during the week when I don't see him, when there's barely any contact, when I have to fend for myself. I have plenty to keep me busy, but it was more a matter that I never felt like I could call him after a tough day to talk, that I could view him as a source of support the way I do my other friends. That's what it was: I didn't get a sense that he was my friend.

Last night, I told him that. I said I was aware of the risks of developing a closer personal relationship, that treating him more as a confidante could lead to sticky territory of more attachment and a need for commitment. Which isn't what I was asking for.

He saw the difference.

"You can always call me if you had tough day and need to talk. I would be there for you the way I'd be there for any other of my friends. And if anyone was every giving you a hard time, I'd sort them out. I'll be your bodyguard." He got a fierce look in his eyes, a spark of anger at the idea of somebody messing with me.

"I guess I never felt that from you before."

"I consider you my friend. I have from the very beginning."

He said he didn't think of me as a casual fling or fuck buddy (how I hate that term), that he thinks about being with me during the times we're apart.

He mentioned a personal story I shared a couple of weeks ago, of something awful that happened to me as a little girl.

"When you told me that, even though you said you couldn't remember it happening, I felt so sad for you I wanted to cry. And I couldn't stop that from happening to you, but I feel so protective of you now."

He sees a part of me not many others see. In many ways, I'm still naive, still blind to the evils of the world, and oblivious to life outside my small sphere of consciousness. For the most part, I have led a relatively sheltered life. He sees this innocence, and wants to shield me from harm.

I feel his protection.

This is one reason why I love being with him, why the times we are together are worth all the uncertainty that follows. I feel so safe with him that everything else falls away. I can let go of my fear and be my real self. And despite our strange and uneven communication in between, when we get together there's a sense of relief and inevitability, a sense of belonging, even if it's just for the night. There is always at least one moment during the night that feels perfect. It might be a minute in my room, listening to music in utter stillness. It might be in a taxi, crossing the bridge and putting my head on his shoulder. It might be in a crowded bar, smiling at each other through the hazy din of layered conversations and alcohol. It might be when he wipes away my tears, pulls me in close, and kisses me. It could happen at any time.

I pay a price for these perfect moments. I want more of them and yet I have to understand that their beauty comes from the wild and unstable circumstances surrounding them. It's the power, brightness, and instability of a lightning bolt. It's breathtaking and treacherous, impossible to predict.

When that lighting does strike, time freezes and everything is in its right place. In those seconds or minutes or even hours, in his arms, I am completely, irrefutably, safe. Protected.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Giving Up"

Excerpt from a chat with Miss Curious, last week:

Miss C: why can't he just be in love with you already?!?!?!
Dolly: i know, right?
you know when he's goign to fall in love with me?
Miss C: I know when
Dolly: after i get totally heartbroken and decide conclusively i want nothing to do with him and
that's when
Miss C: yup
Dolly: there is no solution
Miss C: so are we in hell?
where nothing goes our way?!?! hahaha!
two ships passing in the night
Dolly: the solution is to give up
but i mean "give up"
Miss C: possible?
Dolly: fully accept the fact that we're going to be alone
Miss C: if we're supposedly here to propagate, and I've overcome the desire to have my own children (would adopt children who've been left)... then how is it I cannot rid myself of the need for a partner? Because propagation should be the only need for one... successful hunter/gatherer propagation
so there's a chance that we could "give up"

Dolly: what about companionship? sex? love?
should all of those come from different sources?
Miss C: yes, they should
companionship, sex, love
all byproducts of our primal instinct to reproduce

Dolly: but how do we splinter ourselves like that?
Miss C: that's what we must discover
there must be a way
Dolly: distracting ourselves with tons of hobbies and other social activity?

Miss C: yeah, drugs and alcohol

Dolly: becoming buddhist
Miss C: smoking weed and live music make me complete!
Dolly: that's what people keep suggesting to me
buddhism, not weed

Miss C: buddhism is actually pretty fucking great... but I'm personally too neurotic to "be at peace without knowing the answers"
I actually try to apply many buddhist philosophies to my life, but it's tough to achieve
how's it going for you?

Dolly: it's the wanting that's the sticky point for me
i can't imagine passion without desire
and i can't imagine life without passion
i don't want some kind of neutral life. i'll take the roller coaster any day

Miss C: I'm not sure what my answer is to that question anymore
I can completely see why you'd want it that way

Dolly: sometimes it doesn't feel like i have a choice
Miss C: you're absolutely right... it's more in theory ;-)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Scents and Sensibility

This morning, the smell hit me right away. A cotton ball damp with a new brand of toner, a fragrance so familiar, I was no longer in my apartment. But where was I?

It took me a minute to place the familiar scent. The lime top note hit me, and then I remembered. Going back several years, he mentioned the name of the scent, an obscure one. I made a special trip to a shop on Madison Avenue to buy it for him. This was during the long distance correspondence, before we met, before we kissed, before we moved in together.

"This is what he smells like," I held the bottle in my hand, pausing before I brought it up to my nose.

I know about pheromones, I know about the scientific theories that propose love boils down to smell. I know about the sweaty t-shirt experiment, where women were more likely to be attracted to the men whose odors they responded to best during a blind smell test. What I don't know is how deodorants, scented lotions, colognes, and perfumes mask or enhance a person's natural odor in a subconscious way. I know I'm sensitive to a person's smell, and highly sensitive to men's colognes (there are some brands that I find highly erotic and others which utterly repulse me), but I'm curious about how much we affect courtship and mating by changing the way we smell.

I was nervous that day, standing in a shop full of glass bottles, about to spray one, the one, about to inhale his scent. If I didn't have a positive reaction, I knew it would never work between us. Yet when I craned my neck to catch a whiff of the citrus mist that I sprayed, I was pleasantly surprised, even a little excited. I was also relieved. Of course, things ended up not working out between us anyway, but it was because of irreconcilable, not olfactory reasons.

Friday night, outside Bar K, a delayed hug hello. My nose against his black t-shirt, inhaling.

"You smell good," I said. "You always smell good."

I asked him to name the colognes he wears, one of which is my favorite male brand, and I wonder how much stock to put in such things. Is it really all about smell? Is that what we mean when we talk about that elusive x factor known as chemistry? If he wore the same cologne as my father, would I no longer be attracted to him? (I could never date a man who smelled like my Dad.) The first night we met, he told me I smelled good; if I wore a different perfume that night, would he not have been attracted to me? Not as much?

For the most part, I prefer it when men wear cologne, though it can be tricky to select the right scent. I made the mistake of choosing incorrectly at least one time that I know about: on a first date, I once wore the same perfume that my date's ex-girlfriend used to wear. We hit it off, but I knew there would be no second date; there wasn't. How much of that had to do with that perfume and the memory trigger is something I will never know.

I'm endlessly fascinated by the smell-memory connection. When I was reminded of my ex's scent this morning, I was so disturbed and overwhelmed, I had to spray myself with perfume to cover it up. I also had to think twice and choose a perfume that wouldn't bring back other memories. I sprayed a bit too generously in my haste, and can still smell it on me. This spicy scent does conjure a vague nostalgia, but I've worn it sporadically over the last five years, so it isn't tied to a specific part of my life the way other scents are.

Friday night, during that hug, I recalled the necklace he left on my nightstand, the way the leather cord absorbed his scent, made him vivid in his absence.

In a blind test, would I select his sweaty t-shirt over all others?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


One of my fitness instructors asked me to bring in a Before picture of myself. I looked through photos of a party Polly had in December, photos that showed the damage that all my depressive eating had done, photos that appalled me at the time. It was me and it wasn't. A rounder face, a larger body, a person who wasn't very happy.

Today I am about 40 pounds lighter than I was in that photo. I lost the depression weight, and then lost more. I weigh less now than I did in college. It's possible I'd be able to fit into my high school prom dress.

I'm not an After yet. I've had people say I look great as is and don't need to lose any more weight. I've had people say 10-15 more pounds will do it. I have my own number in my head and I'm fairly certain I'll be able to reach and maintain it in a healthy way.

Being heavy in today's society, especially in New York (one of the "glamour" cities) was not fun. It was akin to being a second class citizen, or even being invisible. There are only so many times you can be told what a pretty face you have. And even though I was still able to attract men, I knew my weight was a liability, a detriment to my "replication value."

It wasn't just being less attractive (by modern standards) externally. I felt terrible on the inside. I had less confidence, less energy, and a part of me believed I didn't deserve... well, anything good. I'm sure last autumn's break-up, my grandmother's death, and a few other things had a lot to do with it, too, but this was one thing I could actually fix. And I don't mean it in the way of women who develop eating disorders because it's one thing in their lives they can control. For me, it was one thing in my life I could improve.

So I changed my diet, brought my exercise routine up a notch, and started becoming more aware of what was going into my body, whether it was food, nicotine, or alcohol. I said no to birthday cake, dinners out, and happy hours if I felt I had overindulged too much that week. I planned girls nights out, dates, and other social activities around my workout schedule. I balanced this with treats when I knew I needed them, whether it was a day to be lazy on the couch or Thai take out. I rewarded myself with an exotic vacation, but chose one that involved a lot of physical activity.

Generally, I don't believe myself to be all that disciplined. Sloth is one of my favorite deadly sins, after Lust and Gluttony (though less of the latter these days). So it's a little shocking to step on the scale week after week and see the numbers go down. It's more than a little shocking to look in the mirror and see a different person's reflection.

I used to say that I would never date a man who would only want me at a lower weight (and I still think "for fatter or thinner" should be added to traditional wedding vows). Dating these last few months has been strange, because part of me wonders if any of these men would have liked me 40 pounds ago. But then I remember something: I didn't like me 40 pounds ago, either. I mean, yes, I'm still the same person I was then, but in other ways--apart from physical--I'm not. I enjoy challenging myself more now. I have much more confidence and better self-esteem. I now believe I deserve those good things, not in an entitled way, but in an I-work-hard-and-will-reap-my-rewards-kind of way.

"Beauty is a currency," I told a man this weekend. He didn't disagree.

By the standards of society, I have raised my value over these last four-and-a-half months. People look at me and treat me differently. It's daunting to be more visible, but also empowering.

I'm not writing all this to brag. I'm actually pretty hard on myself about not achieving enough, not working hard enough, and generally having little to show for my life. This is more a reminder that I did accomplish something this year: I transformed myself into a person I like. It's a process, and I'm still getting there, but it's nice to step back and recognize that I've actually made some progress.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

swing low

I have to keep telling myself it's not me, it's the drugs. It started yesterday afternoon, about 24 hours after I took the first dose of Plan B. First I thought it was general cranikiness, but then it became some kind of bleak emotional quicksand. I felt myself sinking. I wanted to exercise when I got home, get the endorphins working for me, but my body felt leaden, sluggish.

I went to bed early, slept through the night, woke up before my alarm. I should be refreshed, and physically I'm okay. Mentally, not so much. Basically, I can't allow myself to think about anything too much, or else I get overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness, failure, and despair. I'm trying to remind myself that it's the crazy dose of hormones coursing through my body, but it's no good. Right now, it's easier to believe that I've done nothing, and am worth nothing, and things will never, ever fall into place for me.

Good times.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the mornings after

I have used emergency contraception three times in my life:

1. College.
One night my boyfriend and I got carried away and had sex without a condom. The next day, I went to a local clinic and got the morning after pill, which back then was a series of four or eight birth control pills (nowadays, it's a high dosage of two pills). Apart from the fear of pregnancy, I was concerned about the possible side effects of the medication, having previously had a very negative experience with the birth control pill.

The side effects hit me hard. The nausea wasn't so bad, but the exhaustion and depression were far from pleasant. It was like being hit with some kind of severe emotional flu for a few days. I don't remember much about it apart from a dark haze. The worst part was, my boyfriend wasn't around to take care of me. I remember talking to him on the phone, telling him I didn't feel well, maybe even crying, but he never offered to come over to check in on me. Maybe he thought it was something I needed to go through on my own; I don't know. My brain was too clouded over at the time to think he may have been behaving in an insensitive way. I don't think he ever gave me a real reason. We stayed together after that, for another couple of months. I ended up trying out a different birth control pill while dating him, and this one didn't affect me as badly, but I still couldn't get over the psychological implications of messing with my body's hormonal balance and kept worrying I would slip into another depression. After that one mishap, we always stuck to condoms.

2. Six years ago.
I was living with a man, involved in what what was one of my healthiest relationships to date. One night, the condom broke. We worked near each other, so my boyfriend accompanied me to the clinic on my lunch break. There was a longer wait to be seen than I expected, so he had to return to the office after an hour. I stayed behind, sensing the minutes ticking by, anxiously remembering that the first dose needs to be taken as quickly as possible after the "incident." In my nervousness, I neglected to call work to inform them that I'd be delayed.

I returned to the office four hours four later. My manager was livid and took me into the kitchen to chew me out. I remember his face was tomato-red, but before he could say anything I burst into tears. I had no choice but to tell him the truth. As soon as I mentioned the words "emergency birth control" his anger gave way to awkward embarrassment. The delicate nature of what I shared paired with my tears made for a lenient and sympathetic manager. I wiped my tears, returned to my desk, and finished out the day.

This time, I can't remember feeling any of the medication's side effects. It turned out that having the condom break and getting the morning after pill wasn't as nerve-wracking as having to tell my manager about it so that he wouldn't yell at me.

3. Yesterday.
I wasn't even going to take it. Yes, certain risky sexual behavior transpired, but it wasn't something that could be classified as a mishap. More of a caught-up-in-the-moment kind of thing. My gut told me I'd be okay, but my gut isn't fail-safe. If another clinic visit was required, I would have scrapped the idea, but now they sell the stuff over the counter (at the pharmacy's discretion, so not all will carry it). Apparently, if you're over 18, and have ID and fifty bucks, you can get Plan B.

I was surprised to learn how pricey it was. Then again, an abortion is even more expensive, to say nothing of the costs (financial and beyond) of raising an actual kid. I decided it was worth it for extra peace of mind, so I took my passport and stopped by my local pharmacy on my way to the movies. The man and woman behind the counter were friendly and polite, though they did look at me with a slight air of concern and sympathy. The pharmacist, while checking my passport, said I look much younger than in the photo. I appreciated his kindness.

I took the first pill just before entering the subway, set an alarm on my cell phone to wake me up for the second dose, and went on my merry way.

Once again, I braced myself for side effects, but I feel okay so far. A little tired and a little anxious, but I don't know if that's from the pills or from a restless night of sleep paired with work stress.

I don't plan on making a habit of needing it, but am extremely grateful that I've always had access to emergency contraception. Though I want to have a family some day, getting pregnant right now is a frightening prospect (I mean, the week I spent taking care of my parent's dog seemed like a huge responsibility). Having taken Plan B, I'm immensely relieved that I've lowered my odds of conceiving (though the next few weeks will be a bit tense until I am completely sure I'm not pregnant).

As much as I've been craving adventure, and as much fun as that preceding night was, I know playing fast and loose with my fertility should not be the way I seek it out. I've been lucky that no previous incidents have resulted in STDs or pregnancy. For the record, I'll be more careful in the future.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Blind Items: Dumb Blondes...and Brunettes...and Redheads

There has been an epidemic of bad romantic decision-making among the women I know, the likes of which I have never seen. Is there something in the mascara?

Let's examine the evidence, shall we? Names and identifying details withheld to protect the foolish (myself included):

Exhibit A: She's still getting over the break-up of a long-term relationship, but can't help from chronically text messaging a former one-night-stand-turned-fling who has done nothing but play head games with her, who is beneath her to begin with.

Exhibit B: She dragged things out with her sociopathic boyfriend for way too long, finally broke things off, and soon after ended up drunkenly making out with a guy in a serious relationship.

Exhibit C: She spent the night talking about what a wonderful, sweet, caring boyfriend she has, and a couple of days later made out with a guy who has been flaky and sketchy with her, and has psychological problems, as well as some kind of sexual dysfunction.

Exhibit D: She has been flirting online with a man in a foreign country who is in a serious (live-in) relationship. They've done nothing more than chat, and neither want to cross any boundaries, but conversation topics have included masturbation and pornography.

Exhibit E: She has such a rigid ideal of what her "type" is, she closes herself off from any potential suitors and has been on exactly one date in the last year, preferring instead to concoct theories about relationships and love that are grounded very little in personal experience. She's about to move to another country where her chances of meeting a potential suitor are even lower.

Exhibit F: She was told from the beginning that he was never faithful to a woman, but got physically and then emotionally involved. Soon after, he slept with someone else, came clean about it, and ended up hurting her despite the warning.

Exhibit G: She spent one night crying over her ex, the next night "getting over" him, the next night telling him how evil he is, and the night after that inviting him over.

What is wrong with all of us? How can a group of such smart, attractive women make such colossally stupid choices? I think sometimes it's because we want a little mischief or adventure, we want to cut lose and stop being sensible all the time (or, in the case of inaction, want to protect ourselves from deep emotional harm). Sometimes alcohol plays a big part in the bad behavior. In many of the above cases, we all got ample warning about what a Bad Idea it would be to get entangled, but went ahead anyway. Maybe we thought we'd be able to keep our hearts out of it. Maybe we didn't do much thinking at all and let our instincts and impulses carry us instead.

Part of me wants to get all self-righteous about it, give lectures about being more self-aware, having more self-respect, etc. But I don't think that's the problem. We're talking about a pretty bright bunch of ladies here. I think it's more that we need to get a little crazy sometimes. Or even a lot. So let's ride out this wave of madness and see where it leads us...

[ETA: In keeping with the gossip rag style of this post, I'm a little disappointed with myself that I wasn't able to work in the word "canoodling" in any of the blind items. Next time.]